The dramatic increase in funding for the European Reassurance Initiative reflects sustained assurance to allies and a way to bolster NATO’s much-needed defense capabilities following Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, President Obama said in a? Feb. 2 statement. The Defense Department’s Fiscal 2017 budget request, which will officially be released on Feb. 9, quadruples funding for the ERI, requesting $3.4 billion, said Defense Secretary Ash Carter in a Feb. 2 speech in Washington, D.C. The funding “should make clear that America will stand firm with its allies in defending not just NATO territory but also shared principles of international law and order,” Obama said in the statement. The ERI was established in 2014 to increase the US presence in Europe and to preposition equipment across Europe. The increased funding will allow the Pentagon to augment its force presence, conduct additional training, preposition additional Army stock in Europe, improve infrastructure, and build the capacity of allies in Central and Eastern Europe, according to a White House factsheet. (See also Forward and Ready, East and South from the September 2015 issue of Air Force Magazine.)
Three B-1B Lancers from the 7th Bomb Wing flew over the Indo-Pacific alongside F-16s from the Japanese Air Self Defense Force recently, as part of a joint large force exercise. The mission began and ended in the continental U.S., as the bombers flew 31 hours and landed Jan. 11.